I've left Cord with the baby for too long, but that can't be helped. The way he cradled Bud with confidence and the family he has for back up calm my nerves as I enter the sterile hospital. I've given Burnish one task in return for this gift I'm about to offer: to tell Magenta I'm at Lily's. They aren't friends so she won't follow up, and by the time my parents find me, I will have made up for the mistake that got them in deep trouble.

"Hello, can I help you?" the nurse asks, like I'm lost.

"I'm here to donate my nutrients for Lemon Paintbrush."

They put me in a lavish suite and coddle me like a pop star. Anything I want is too small a request and I'm pampered beyond imagination while waiting for the needles to come and find me. When I'm in a mud treatment with my favorite band blasting over the speakers, someone knocks.

A nurse pops in."Hey there princess, you're all set," she says. "They'll prep you for surgery day after tomorrow. Until then, you're excused from school, free to relax and come and go as you please."

The lag time is a surprise. I'd thought they'd want to save Lemon as soon as possible. "Oh, how is she?"

"She's hanging in there. Your parents have to come and fill out the papers and consent. And then there's the whole insurance fiasco to file, and the special equipment to assemble."

I'd hoped Mom and Dad wouldn't know until it was over. Now I can't hide my mistake from them before it's erased.

"It's a mighty thing you're doing," the nurse says. "She must be a very good friend."

"Oh, it's nothing." The thought of another day of waiting calms and scares me at once.

"Nonsense, donating nutrients is as close to God as you can get. Now you rest up and let me know if you need anything at all."

I lie on the huge mulchy bed and spread out in an X. Within minutes the day's exhaustion finds me, and I curl into the renewing blackness of three-hundred-particle-count soil.

The next morning I'm treated to breakfast on the private sun deck. The sky is so blue it could swallow me. There's even a pool and I swim just for fun without the pull of competition.

I call Mom but there's no answer. I want to hear her voice, to know they'll be okay and I'll be alright. I wander nervously through the halls. Cord's family works here and I'm anxious to know if he's heard my news, any of it. Does he know about Mom and Dad getting detained by the guards for a crime he and I committed? Does he know the sacrifice I'm making to save them? News travels fast in the Grove, but I know from being the center of gossip that if it's about me I'll be the last to hear.

In the middle of my Monday afternoon movie marathon, a messenger delivers a gift basket full of fancy soaps and lotions. Inside is a thank you note from Lemon's mother on thick stationery printed with her full name at the top, Castilleja Occidentalis Paintbrush.

Dearest Fuchsia,

Your generosity is astounding, and we can't thank you enough for this selfless act of bravery. If there's anything I can do to make the procedure easier for you, please don't hesitate to ask.

XOXOXO

Cassy

We were once friends, Lemon and I. Shortly after I saw her with that shelter girl on the field trip, I made an effort to be closer to her bravery. We had a couple sleepovers and swapped books and sweatshirts. Then, one spring day we were sitting on the swings in the park and she formed two crosses in the kicked-bare earth beneath us. She put her initials, L P, in the top bracket of her cross, and instructed me to put F B at the top of my cross. "Now," she said. "At the same time, we'll put our crushes' initials in the bottom, one, two, three..."

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